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Building stories and metaphor in business has proven power.Stories Sell

Research has even shown that stories naturally sneak into the unconscious mind, bypassing the conscious filters that stop direct suggestion being accepted unchecked.

There are known story telling methods used by Shakespeare, Disney, and many more of the great storytellers in history. Three such methods are

The monomyth or Hero’s Journey - Edward Taylor's observations of common patterns in plots of hero's journeys

Pixar 22 rules for story telling - originally formulated by Emma Coats, one of Pixar’s Story Artist

Freytag’s Pyramid — a dramatic structure that can be traced back to Aristotle. Sometimes referred to as ‘the five act formula’.

As long as communication has existed, we have communicated via stories – from pictures on cave walls to flat screen TV’s. People are attracted to stories because we are social creatures and we relate to other people through perceived shared experiences. Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. Neuro-economist Paul Zak’s research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the cute factor of the animals releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward centre, to release dopamine, which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic. Think of a film, or even advert, you enjoyed and consider the key story structure that hooked you; was it overcoming adversity or something similar?

Building stories in Business enables both staff and clients alike to emotionally connect to the message and buy into the values embedded in the message.

All Language is Metaphoric

In addition to this, our language is built on metaphor and is naturally symbolic

It is easy to appreciate how misunderstanding can occur and how this can develop into context-blindness as language by its nature is vague, open to interpretation and metaphoric. The following two quotes by key figures in this field express this more eloquently:

“A metaphor is understanding something in terms of something else”

  George Lakoff

“Metaphor mediates the interface between the conscious and unconscious mind”

David Grove

From Shakespeare to Shelley and from advertisers to politicians, people across the world have leveraged the effects of metaphor to convey new ideas and concepts and to appeal to our emotions.

However, metaphors are not just, for when we are being creative. We use metaphors every day for communicating complex ideas. In fact, researchers estimate that we use, on average, six metaphors per minute in ordinary speech (Pollio, 1994). This is because metaphors underpin our thinking and rise to the surface in the words we use. Some are very obvious: I’m banging my head against a brick wall; there’s a big knot in my stomach; he’s burying his head in the sand. Others are embedded in our sentences and do not stand out as much: I’m building a new business; I am bottling up my feelings; I need to follow through on my tasks.

Metaphors have the power of enabling each individual to connect the metaphoric interpretation to each specific context in a way that best fits their map. But metaphors are a double-edged sword: when poorly wielded they have the potential to cause more harm, yet when wielded by a skilled hand, they cut to the heart of the matter. Framing correctly ensures the content and contexts can be connected appropriately.

Quick exercise – please reread the paragraph “Metaphors have the power…” and mark-out the metaphors. How many did you find? Did you get at least 10? There are more… or did you only really notice “double-edged sword”. You can run a simple test by asking “what kind of [??] is that [??]” where [??] is anything you may consider metaphoric eg “what kind of [map] is that [map]?”. And see where it leads you. Hey, “what kind of [leads] is that [leads]?”

If you are interested in understanding more about the power of language and how to build it to house your message successfully, please contact Mark Peters by email or on 0121 251 6172

Mark is the author of ‘the accidental hypnotist’

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West Midlands Hypnotherapy Centre, 3 Middleton Hall Road, Kings Nortont, Birmingham B30 1AB
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